As scheduled, the auction started at ten o’clock sharp the next morning.
Li Yiming arrived in his casual outfit, completely unconcerned by his cheap clothing in such an event. The auction itself was being held in a meeting room with nothing more than a few dozens of sofa and a simple wooden stage for the articles to be presented to the participants.
Chen Quan showed up in a suit which was undoubtedly custom-made judging by the quality of the fabric alone. However, comically enough, his height made him seem like a child disguising as an adult.
Chen Quan seemed embarrassed, not due to his outfit, but rather because of the security guard who had just barricaded Li Yiming and himself right outside of the venue.
“It’s okay. They’ll let us in soon enough.” Li Yiming shrugged his shoulders. He knew that they needed to wait for all the other guests to arrive before being allowed to enter the meeting hall. After all, they were unofficial guests, which meant that they would not even be allowed the privilege to sit on the leather sofas, and instead had to sit on simple wooden chairs.
“Nuisances blocking the way this early in the morning?” A feeble but angry voice came from behind just as Chen Quan peeked into the room to estimate how much longer they would have to wait.
“I didn’t use enough medicine it seems.” Chen Quan smirked. The gloves have been off ever since the rumors of what he did spread on the cruise ship.
Li Yiming pulled him out of the way, rather amused by the statement. He glanced at the newcomers; it was Mrs. Qiang and Ximen Song, and although the former’s countenance was still ashen, she did not hide her intense dislike for bumping into Li Yiming again.
“It’s okay. No need to be angry at people like them.” Ximen Song tried to appease Mrs. Qiang, but seemed reluctant to cross eyes with Li Yiming or Chen Quan, especially after learning about what the latter did for a living.
“What’s wrong with the security on this ship? Is it so hard to hire competent people these days?” Mrs. Qiang continued to vent out her irritation at the staff working on-site.
“I’m sorry, could you two gentlemen please move to the side for a moment?” The security was aware of the discontentment that he had caused. Although he formulated his request to Li Yiming and Chen Quan politely, there was a trace of contempt for the ostensibly insignificant duo who had just angered an important guest.
Chen Quan’s pride was stung by the remark, and he regretted once again not using a stronger dosage for the “detoxification treatment” of Mrs. Qiang. Li Yiming remained impassive and moved out of the way with an apologetic smile.
“Sorry for making you wait this long. The zipper was stuck and my assistant took some time trying to make it work.” A pleasant voice was heard, and Li Yiming suddenly felt fingers wrap around his wrist.
“Ms. Fang…” The security looked at Fang Shui’er, who came from behind Li Yiming, completely astounded.
“You’re not angry, are you?” Fang Shui’er looked at Li Yiming and said in a charming tone.
“I wouldn’t dare.” Li Yiming smiled awkwardly.
“Let’s go then!” Fang Shui’er dragged Li Yiming toward into the auction hall. The security, rather than stopping Li Yiming, seemed terrified at the fact that he had unknowingly barred entrance to a companion of a renowned actress such as Fang Shui’er.
Fang Shui’er paced through the hallway rapidly with Li Yiming, as if she was a young girl embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The two soon caught up to Mrs. Qiang and Ximen Song, who were walking slowly, with the former trying her best to conceal her weakness.
“What did you say about nuisances?” Chen Quan said in an imperious voice.
“You?” Mrs. Qiang turned back and was about to hurl out some insults, but the sight of Fang Shui’er silenced her. She instinctively leaned against Ximen Song, seeking some support from his lover. However, the latter interpreted her intentions wrong and subtly dragged her out of Fang Shui’er’s way.
“We should let the most vulnerable members of society have priority. I heard it’s a virtue.” Fang Shui’er said rather innocently when she passed by Mrs. Qiang and Ximen Song.
“Oh, yes, of course, Ms. Fang. It’s only natural for us to help those who are in need of it.” Chen Quan immediately feigned regret.
“Gigolo…” Mrs. Qiang forcefully pushed Ximen Song away and stared at Li Yiming venomously. She said the word loud enough for everyone in the room to hear it.
Chen Quan’s countenance sank and he reached for something in his pockets.
“I think that our seats are over there…” Li Yiming paid no mind to Mrs. Qiang and pointed to the wooden benches in a corner as he let go of Fang Shui’er.
“Alright, let’s go then.” Fang Shui’er smiled sweetly, and, hand-in-hand with Li Yiming once again.
Murmurs could be heard as those who sat around Li Yiming and Fang Shui’er gave them the side-eye, unsure of what to make of the two not sitting down in a sofa like the other invited guests.
“I’m just here for fun. I don’t really care about where I sit. It’s nice being treated as a normal person for once instead of a superstar. Look at these people, they either fear me or want to sleep with me,” Fang Shui’er stared into Li Yiming’s eyes.
‘Some things are different after sleeping with you…’ Chen Quan thought, having obviously made the wrong assumptions about the nature of the relationship between Li Yiming and Fang Shui’er.
The staff who was busy preparing drinks for the guests was completely dumbfounded. He turned his attention toward Yu Runkai. Yu Runhai, who was enjoying himself with a young model, shook his head, and the waiter continued his work, pretending as if nothing happened.
Li Yiming looked around and noticed that most of the guests were men, and a fair number of them were accompanied by beauties. ‘Looks like the party at the pool yesterday paid off for many…’
Li Yiming looked around, but could not find the young model who was entangled with Mrs. Qiang last night.
“You don’t need to look for her. Three million is enough for people to take a hint and keep their distance from her.” Fang Shui’er read Li Yiming’s mind and answered in a rather sour tone.
Chen Quan stretched himself and looked away. ‘Impressive, Li Yiming…’
As the last guests had arrived, the auction sale finally began. The host was a middle-aged man, who, according to Chen Quan, happened to be an authoritative figure on ancient artifacts. Instead of opening up with a speech welcoming the guests, he proceeded to the main show straight away and unveiled the first item.
The first artifact that was shown was a near two meters tall rosewood screen made sometime between the Ming and Qing dynasty, with the sculptures on it depicting a scene of birds living on a mountain. The carvings in the scarlet-tinted rosewood were decorated with threads of gold, and the feathers were intricately decorated by complex motifs.
Li Yiming was no expert on artifact collecting, but he had no doubts that the item would not be sold for cheap
The host completely removed the red cloth covering the item and read a paragraph of historical text that sounded like a segment taken from the biography of a famous person. Li Yiming could not quite comprehend due to his lack of knowledge in the field.
‘That’s it?’ Li Yiming was surprised. ‘He didn’t even mention what the starting price is.’
“One million!” Someone shouted.
“One million two hundred thousand!”
“One and two hundred twenty-five!”
Li Yiming turned his head toward Chen Quan as the price of the wooden screens skyrocketed in a matter of seconds.
“You sure we can sit here?” Li Yiming looked at the other participants who sat on the long bench and noticed that all of them were quite a distance away due to being intimidated by Fang Shui’er.
“Don’t worry about it.” Chen Quan said nonchalantly.
Li Yiming stayed silent and scrutinized the surroundings very carefully. Only then did he realize that six out of the seven surveillance cameras installed in the room were pointed in his direction.
The rosewood screen ended up being sold for over two million yuan. Li Yiming was skeptical about whether the object was worth such a hefty sum, and the long process of people putting down their bids bored greatly. To distract himself, he asked the waiter for a cup of lemon water.
The second item to be sold was a hairpin decorated by an elegantly designed skylark whose feathers were decorated with gems. Some of the sockets were missing their gemstones, which suggested that the item has had a fair bit of history for itself.
Once again, the host picked up a small card and read a paragraph of ancient text. This time, Li Yiming recognized the words “From the palace of the Duke of Qin”.
“Three million!” Someone immediately jumped on the opportunity.
“Shit!” Chen Quan grumbled. “I made a mistake.”
“How much did you sell this for?” Li Yiming asked.
“Three hundred thousand… Who would have guessed that a silver hairpin would sell for this much…” Chen Quan pursed his lips.
“It’s made of silver?”
“What do you think? Platinum?”
“There are no easy jobs, I guess…” Li Yiming grimaced.
The silver hairpin ended up being sold for nearly five millions as Li Yiming and Chen Quan finished their conversations. Chen Quan asked for a bottle of beer to distract himself from the grief of missing out on such a big sum of money. He secretly resolved himself to never be lazy again in doing his research before digging up a grave, especially after this painful lesson.
As the sale of the second item concluded, the host pushed a wooden cart to the middle of the stage. The red cloth was taken off, and the object that Li Yiming had been waiting for all this time appeared right before his eyes: the golden wok cap.
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